It’s Sunday night and my feet hurt. We haven’t calculated the weekend total but we’ve been averaging about ten miles of walking a day. A solid twenty yesterday. Why all the walking? Because if there’s one thing you don’t want to be doing in Veracruz this weekend, it’s driving. The newspaper yesterday morning estimated that 2 million visitors to the state of Veracruz were expected for Semana Santa. If the city is any indicator, they’re estimate isn’t far off. We walked the length of the crowded city beach yesterday morning in search of the aquarium, Mexico’s finest. We found it. So did at least a third of the 2 million visitors. It’s not a bad aquarium. It’s not a great aquarium either, but by Mexican standards, it’s spectacular. The children were sufficiently impressed, as the last fish zoo we took them to was the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, when Hannah and Ben were only three. Ezra saw his first “real, not on TV” sharks. Elisha studied an octopus. We all stood for a long while, shoulder to shoulder with at least two hundred Mexicans in a room in which the air conditioning could not keep up with the body heat and watched in awe as magical white “medusa” jelly fish swirled around in a deep blue tank. I love jelly fish.
Where else have we walked? Where haven’t we walked is a better question. Mostly, we’ve followed the children around the downtown area watching them shop. They’ve become quite independent in their bartering and I’ve been relegated to holding the pile of purchases instead of having to broker every sale. The booty: a treasure box each, multiple shell necklaces and bracelets, fancy fans, bouncy toys for babies we love, as well as nieve (sort of an ice cream) cotton candy, cigars, and foamy lizards. For the record, the kids did not buy the cigars. There has been a delightfully generous spirit prevailing as little gifts have been purchased and exchanged, and little treasures tucked away for particularly precious people at home. Even so, I’m shopped out.
Easter morning dawned hot and with the usual Mexican cacophony of car horns, blaring music involving tubas and accordions, barkers selling their wares and dogs barking. It was with considerable relief that we ducked into the cool, shaded and quiet interior of the cathedral on the zocalo. We’ve been in several times this week, to listen to singing, or check on mass times, but this morning it was different. The enormous purple curtains that have shrouded all of the icons of Christ had been removed and the alters were positively littered with over sized arrangements of white roses and easter lilies. The scent of the flowers mixed with the layers of incense and old wax was intoxicating as we waited in silence for the priest to call us to prayer.
If there is one victory of the Catholic church throughout history, it is to be found in their standardization of the liturgy. Friday afternoons spent in the Roman Catholic church on the island celebrating mass with my school mates prepared me well for this Easter morning. I knew, in English, just exactly what to say and where we were in the celebration. I reflected on the benefit of this aspect of Catholicism while the priests walked the center aisle splashing us all with holy water while the faithful sang. Ezra wiggled his loose tooth, the significance of the moment entirely lost on him. The nuns read and sang the psalm in Spanish. The two little boys in front of us picked at each other until their Dad thumped one of them. I looked up at Tony and winked. He had a big droplet of holy water hanging from one ear lobe. I giggled. “I’ve been baptized in the Lutheran, Baptist and now Catholic churches,” he whispered, “I think I’m covered!”
To be honest, it wasn’t a very Eastery-Easter. We celebrated mass with complete strangers. Easter dinner was carne asada tacos with pico and beer eaten at a plastic table on a street corner. I did manage to find four chocolate eggs for the children, but there were no baskets, no egg hunts wearing mud boots over church clothes with the Wood family and certainly no ham dinners, or hard boiled eggs for breakfast. There was no party at my Aunt Shirley’s with every cousin in attendance either. Fortunately, those are not the things that make it Easter. We have each other and we have a risen Savior, so who needs ham? We ate cotton candy instead of chocolate bunnies and the kids hunted for shell treasures for their friends instead of eggs and Tony and I danced to the local music on the Malecon while the kids slurped down their last taste of nieve for the trip. Feliz Pasqua, one and all.